Depending on the source
Everything has its source. Vegetables come from farms. Rubber comes from trees. True happiness comes from coffee, ice cream, and chocolate! That last one may be debatable. But no matter what product you think about, it receives its life source from somewhere. Our spiritual lives are no different. Everything about our spiritual lives has a source. Anything and everything that we do is dependent on the source of our spiritual condition.
Consider the illustration of a grapevine. Every branch that produces those luscious clumps of grapes is connected to a vine. While the grapes get all the praise and glory because of their sweet taste and satisfying flavor, the grapes would be nothing if not for the vine. The life blood of the vine has to flow through the branch in order for fruit to be produced.
Jesus expressed that same reality to his disciples as he discussed important matters with them prior to his arrest, crucifixion and death. John records his gospel Jesus’ masterful use of this illustration when he said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2 ESV). Just like the grapes on the vine, Jesus shares with his apprentices that any fruit they will bear in life is not because of how great and awesome they are… but, will be defendant on how effectively His life flows through theirs.
Now, why did Jesus use the illustration of a grape vine to teach about this important relational connection? Historically, Israel was thought of as a vine. Isaiah 5:7 says, “For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of the Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting” (ESV).
The grapevine was considered to be a symbol of national life. That emblem appeared on coins minted during the Maccabean period (a period of time that took place between the OT and the NT). The Israelite would have regarded the grapevine in a similar way that most United States citizens regard the stars and stripes.
Jesus uses this illustration to communicate that He is the source on which we are to depend for the Giving of life, and the Father is the source on which we are to depend for the production of fruit. When Jesus says, “I am the true vine”, it is almost as if he is saying; “You know how Israel is pictured as a vine that is meant to produce fruit? Well, I am the living fulfillment of everything that symbol represents!”
For the Christian, this is a very powerful and comforting reality. The picture Jesus is painting is that of a vineyard where true believers are organically connected to Christ. The sap that runs in Christ’s veins flows into ours. Then, as our Father walks through the vineyard, He lovingly cares for us… sometimes having to prune us... so that we will be able to produce more fruit.
As you read John 15, there is a heavy emphasis on the bearing of fruit. The reality that is being communicated is that this fruit bearing cannot be done without a life-giving connection with the vine. Fruit only comes because of an intimate connection with the source. Jesus goes on to state the obvious in 15:5 when he says, “… apart from me you can do nothing”.
Ever see the branch of a tree continue to produce fruit long after it has been loped off of the tree? I haven’t. The truth is no different for you or me. If we try to live our lives separated from Christ thinking that the end result will be the production of fruit, then we are sadly mistaken.
There are shelves full of books being written today that will tell you the secret to living your best life now, or how to gain victory in life. While these catchy titles may sound worthwhile, if they do not support the necessity to an intimate connection with Christ, then they are doing nothing but taking your money and blowing smoke. If you think you are going to grow as a Christian and produce spiritual fruit without an intimate connection to Christ, His Word, and His people then you are deceived. You can’t! Jesus said, apart from me, you can do nothing! Trying to live the “Christian life” on your own terms, in your own strength, on your own timetable, and according to your own interpretation will lead you to absolute and ultimate failure.
So, how do we tap into this life-giving source that will enable us to produce fruit? How can we produce fruit and prove to be Christ’s disciples?
By responding to Christ by faith
By spending time with Him by reading and meditating on His Word
By consistently talking with Him through prayer
By being an active part of a local church that will hold you accountable for your growing relationship with Christ
Having the life source of Christ flowing in us is not all that is needed to be as effective as we can be for Christ.
In John 15, Jesus calls God the vinedresser. The Father is pictured as a gardener responsible for pruning the branches so that the fruit is produced more abundantly.
When the gardener does the work of pruning well, he leaves little more than the vine.
In a similar way, the more we are pruned, the more of Christ there will be in our lives.
The more we are pruned… what is left is more of Christ… and less of ourselves.
Isn’t that our goal? To echo the words of John the Baptist in John 3:30, Jesus must increase… and I must decrease!
Jesus said in John 15:7-8, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you… then my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
Do you want to be a healthy reproducing disciple of Jesus? Then stay close to Him.... Keep His Word constantly in you… and God will enable you to produce more fruit for His glory… proving to the world that you belong to Jesus.
Living for Christ means that as His life flows in you, God produces fruit through you directly impacting the world around you for Christ and His Kingdom.
As believers, we are to make sure that the life of Christ is flowing in us. This only happens by staying intimately connected to Jesus.... through His Word, through prayer, and through a consistent connection with His people. As believers, we can celebrate and be encouraged by the reality that we have the life source of Christ flowing through us!
God the Father is looking for the fruit of Christ’s life in us. When we are going through seasons of pruning, realize that God is helping us to become more fruitful. His divine pruning will enable us to bear more fruit tomorrow.
As we grow as Christians… with each year our goal and prayer should be less of me and more of Christ.